Ex-Police chief Stings USF crowd...
Just when boring by-the-number bands are threatening to make arena rock concerts forever unsatisfying, along comes Sting.
The former Police chief is fighting the mediocrity endemic to such shows with the help of durable material, a willingness to experiment and sheer A- caliber musicianship.
Sting, on Sunday night at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, led an eclectic quartet on a journey from the reggae-tinged new wave of the Police to the lush pop of his solo albums.
Last year's 'Ten Summoner's Tales', of course, was the disc ju dour, as all but one of the album's 11 tracks were offered to the more than 8,000 listeners.
Big anthem 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', first up, was given straightforward treatment, its low-key verses setting up a grand, hummable chorus.
'Heavy Cloud No Rain', though, cued the evening's musical strategy, as keyboardist David Sancious led bassist Sting, guitarist Dominic Miller and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta beyond the boundaries of the tune.
Sancious, switching his sound from electric piano to Hammond organ to synthesizer, helped give the Sun Dome a nightclub effect.
He jammed like Herbie Hancock on the half-country, half-jazz 'Love is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' and pushed the quartet into a double-time feel on the ballad 'Seven Days'.
The band's musical muscle proved valuable, too, on such Police segments as the medley that tied 'Synchronicity II' to 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Roxanne'.
On a later passage that allied 'King of Pain' with 'Demolition Man' and 'When the World is Running Down', the jazz gave way to Miller's metallic guitar slashes and, finally, a walloping funk groove.
Sting will have a tough time assem- bling another band as muscular, inventive and spontaneous as Sancious, Colaiuta and Miller. Let's hope he keeps them around.
Melissa Etheridge opened the show with a 40-minute set of no-frills rock mostly drawn from her new 'Yes I Am' album.
Her uncluttered arrangements matched unadorned vocals and earnest lyrics on songs such as 'Come To My Window', 'I'm the Only One' and several old favorites.
The highlight was a stark tune for which Etheridge bid adieu to her three-piece band, accompanying herself only with percussive sounds made on the back of her 12-string guitar.
(c) The Tampa Tribune by Philip Booth